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The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China Paperback – 12 Aug 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (12 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520221540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520221543
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 732,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"The book looks at changing attitudes to the inter-relationship of commerce and culture or leisure activities over the course of the Ming dynasty. . . . One of the strengths of the book . . . is the way in which much of the story is told through the words of contemporary, often little-known, observers, whose sometimes quirky views are skillfully translated. The vividness with which these distant figures and their world are presented to the reader, in the author's very readable style, should make this book accessible to non-China specialists and indeed to anyone who is interested in the ways in which a traditional, agricultural society-then or now-reacts to dramatic economic change."--"China Quarterly

About the Author

Timothy Brook is Professor of History at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Praying for Power: Buddhism and the Formation of Gentry Society in Late-Ming China (1993), and Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement (1992), and the coeditor of Nation Work: Asian Elites and National Identities (1999) and China and Historical Capitalism: Genealogies of Sinological Knowledge (1999).

Inside This Book

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The Ming dynasty began with the peace of the winter season. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
An internal view of an understudied dynasty 7 Sept. 2000
By Read Taylor - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Ming dynasty in China does not receive much attention since it mostly lacks the bloodshed or philosophical grandeur of the Qing, the Tang or the Han. Brook is one of the leading authorities on this era, and this book is, I believe, his most accessible. Beginning with documents written late in the dynasty, Brook shows how the elite of that time feared the collapse of the imagined golden past into what was then considered an immorally secular present. The massive economic changes in the globe in this era (14th to 17th centuries) changed the Chinese society and the Confucian elites place in it. Obviously less exciting to laymen than his work on Tiananmen, 1989, this is a clear book for students who have a general grasp of Chinese history and want to begin to grab details without losing the easy flow found in well written introductory books.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Seasons of a Dynasty 17 Oct. 2012
By Peter Braden - Published on
Format: Paperback
A clear and lively account of the transformation and constancy of Chinese society during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Brook shares his insights on the increased role of silver in the economy, the competitive connoisseurship of gentry and merchants, and a variety of other aspects of daily life. His central thesis is that, while the Ming saw the expansion of the market economy, it did not entail the destruction of the educated elite class. Rather, the scholarly gentry and the nouveau riche merchant classes became interwoven. This transition caused status anxiety and nostalgia on the part of many of the Chinese diarists Brook cites, but it also allowed Chinese elites to weather the bloody and traumatic Ming-Qing transition.

The book is cleverly structured as a progression of seasons, from Ming Taizu's austere, idealized Daoist Winter through the gaudy extravagance and debauchery of late Ming Summer and finally the ill winds of dynastic collapse in Autumn.

Highly recommended as a window on a fascinating era in history, with many thought-provoking parallels to the current situations in both China and the West.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
good book 10 May 2013
By Denise - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to use this book for class. it wasn't the most phenomenal book I have ever read but it wasn't dead boring like some required readings I've had.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
History 26 April 2014
By Pammy - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The only reason why I purchased this book was for my history class and for some odd reason, they didn't have one in the library at school. Other than that, the book was in great condition for it to be used.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Transitioning from agriculture to commerce 4 May 2014
By Fair-Oaks Mark - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am only into the first chapter but would like to express my pleasure on reading a well written and thoughtful book based on good scholarship. I started Chinese studies at Stanford in 1964 and in 1972-3 was at the Stanford Center in Taipei while Professor Brook was in Shanghai. I spent some pleasurable years at Berkeley with Professor Boodberg, Lancaster, Ch'en Shih-Hsiang and Tu Wei-Ming. I eventually ventured outside the university bubble and have enjoyed a variety of non-academic positions. Now that I have more time to read I am pleasantly surprised by the combination of academic and popular style mastered by Dr. Brooks. As a student I worked in the East Asiatic Library at UCB for six years and can picture all the tomes of the Ming and Ch'ing era that scholars never quite got to - the T'ang dynasty was all the rage. Interestingly, the transition from a self-contained agricultural economy to commercialism has been repeated throughout history (Early China - per the Han writers, Judea during Roman times and America). The tension between moral life versus commercial profit life goes on. A recommended read. Thanks Professor Brook.
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